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Cut the certification politics; let's focus on the built environment instead.

placeholder+imagePosted on: 11/13/2013

I am interested and open to supporting every standard, certification and conversation which can help us share more green building information and reduce the impact and footprints of our buildings.  Why is this important?  Because the climate is warming, the oceans are rising, and darn it, we now have enough information that clearly describes the environmental, resource, efficiency, productivity, health benefits, economy (jobs!) and even property value gains from building in a more sustainable way.  

I have tried to follow recent LEED discussions in the media and in state politics, but honestly it's been confusing.  And outright bans seem pretty extreme.  I saw USA Today poking holes at LEED last fall, and maybe that made me think green building must really be becoming mainstream for such a big publication to attack and be snide in such a cheap and tabloid way…  Sure, we need to sift through standards and help figure out which might work best for different projects and circumstances.  And there ideally should be regional flexibility and special circumstances (I do cringe when I hear about non-sensible point pandering, like a bike rack along the highway…)  But clearly the USGBC is an organization, though imperfect of course, which has helped made great strides to transform an enormous and significant industry where our government has failed to do so on its own.  So I don't understand the level of antagonism, in place of what might be constructive criticism and even some recognition.

I see debates in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and now Ohio arguing that the LEED standard should be outright banned (as opposed to even allowing additional certifications to compete).  Some decisions have even been made on this topic by executive order.  But these arguments ring pretty hollow, and honestly, they smell funny.  Usually you can see some local industry arguing LEED is not good for state business and perhaps some big outside interests spending lobbying money in a way that isn't transparent and may not be honest either.  LEED gives points for local materials, so protectionism doesn't always even seem to make sense as an argument.  And if LEED doesn't support a product over another, perhaps there is a green reason.  And maybe we should ask before we lobby.  It really does seem plausible that certain industries (timer, chemicals) are upset at not being included and are fighting back.  But what's the fight?  Shouldn't this debate concern what is really more sustainable, and not just what someone wants to sell more of?

No certification or standard is perfect, and perhaps there is and should not be a one-size-fits-all solution.  But to ban one standard is pretty extreme, in my opinion.  I have tried investigating this issue, but the truth seems a bit elusive.  I'd really like the green building industry to have an honest debate about what's really going on, with all certifiers at the table.  I don't currently like that I feel that politics and maybe some lobbyists are getting in the way of what's best for green building and the footprint of our built environment.  Non-green protectionism doesn't sit right with me, and if this isn't what's going on, then well let's get the debate out in the open.  

What's really going on here?  I do not think it's good for the green building movement.  

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Allison Friedman
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